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NFL Draft Stock Report: Defensive tackles

The NFL Draft is months away, but as college football hits its stride for 2017, we take a look at the top prospects at each position. Today we continue with the defensive tackles.


Christian Wilkins
Christian Wilkins (AP Images)

Recruiting: A few weeks before National Signing Day, Wilkins committed to Clemson over Ohio State, Florida, Notre Dame, Florida State, Penn State and many others.

Stats: Wilkins has totaled 13 tackles (three for loss) including 2.5 sacks so far this season. He also has three quarterback hurries as a crucial part of arguably the best defensive front in the country.

Farrell’s take: I remember the first time I saw Wilkins on film. It was after his freshman season and his athletic ability was off the charts. As a Connecticut prospect, he didn’t get the national attention until later in his career, but I knew how good he was from day one. Wilkins has already turned into one of the elite defensive tackles in the country and could emerge as one of the top five picks in the NFL Draft because he can play tackle or end.

Maurice Hurst
Maurice Hurst (AP Images)

Recruiting: Hurst called a potential Michigan offer a “dream come true,” and when it arrived in the summer before his senior season it was clear the Wolverines were the leader. Boston College, Michigan State, Nebraska and Ohio State were also involved. His father by the same name played for the New England Patriots.

Stats: Tied with Rashan Gary for sixth on the team with 16 tackles, Hurst also has two tackles for loss and a forced fumble in four games this season.

Farrell’s take: I would have never seen this one coming. While I liked Hurst enough to have him as a high three-star, I thought he was overplaying his skill level in choosing Michigan and would have been better at a middling program. He was a tad sawed off but even with that he had a tendency to play high, but he did have a great motor and light feet. But the player you see now is not close to what we saw in high school. He’s improved so much when it comes to explosion and pursuit and the NFL has noticed.

Vita Vea
Vita Vea (AP Images)

Recruiting: Vea, who had 296 tackles and 19 sacks during his time at Milpitas, Calif., committed to Washington over Cal, Oregon State, San Diego State, San Jose State, Tennessee and Utah.

Stats: With Washington giving up less than 11 points per game, Vea has totaled 16 tackles, one sack and a blocked kick so far this season.

Farrell’s take: Vea was ranked as a big defensive end for us out of high school but played on the nose his senior year and was very active. He started off as a four-star pass rusher for us but dropped to a three-star as he got bigger but lost some quickness. He was a tough evaluation because he hadn’t played a ton of football and was very effective when he played, but he was a ‘tweener for us and it was hard to figure out what scheme he would fit into. He’s found his home as a defensive tackle and the NFL covets big men in the middle who can move, so any team looking for a zero technique will jump on him.

Da'Ron Payne
Da'Ron Payne (AP Images)

Recruiting: Payne, who committed to Alabama over Auburn and Mississippi State at the Under Armour All-America Game, grew up an Auburn fan but had developed a great relationship with then-Alabama assistant Mario Cristobal.

Stats: Payne is tied for the team with three other players totaling 23 tackles as Alabama is allowing only 8.6 points per game. The former five-star has 0.5 sacks, one quarterback hurry and a pass breakup as well.

Farrell’s take: Payne was an absolute monster, built like a block and able to hold up blockers at the point of attack and push the pocket. At times on the camp circuit he would show his pass rushing moves, especially a nice inside rip, but other times he was stoned despite his size, which was puzzling. However, with the ability to bull rush and be more physical in pads, he was unstoppable and showed off light feet and the ability to shoot the gap. He was obviously a special prospect based on his ranking and has lived up to the billing. He’s a prospect who can play over center or in a 4-3 scheme so scouts will love his scheme versatility.

Derrick Nnadi
Derrick Nnadi (AP Images)

Recruiting: Nnadi committed to Florida State over mainly Virginia Tech and Virginia on National Signing Day as the Hokies were considered the front-runner heading into the decision. Ohio State and others were also involved.

Stats: In Florida State’s first two games, Nnadi totaled 12 tackles including a team-high 2.5 for loss. In the Seminoles’ first win of the season over Wake Forest on Saturday, Nnadi finished second on the team with seven tackles (two for loss) and a forced fumble.

Farrell’s take: Nnadi was always a ball of energy, a bit sawed off for a defensive tackle but a very active player who could shoot the gap and run plays down. I saw him in camps and games and he always brought boundless enthusiasm and aggression to the point where he had to be calmed down at times. As a Rivals100 prospect, we expected big things from him and he reminded me of a poor man’s Warren Sapp out of high school. The NFL scouts love his motor.


Dre'Mont Jones
Dre'Mont Jones (AP Images)

Recruiting: While on an unofficial visit to Ohio State, and a few months after receiving an offer from the Buckeyes, Jones committed to the in-state school. Michigan, Notre Dame and Kentucky were the other main players in his recruitment.

Stats: Playing in four games this season, Jones has seven tackles including three for loss. He has also registered a pass breakup and a blocked kick.

Farrell’s take: A strongside defensive end in our 2015 rankings, Jones has grown into one of the most athletic and explosive defensive tackles in the NFL Draft. He blew out his knee playing hoops before his freshman year, which led to questions about how effective he’d be coming back, but he’s been a monster ever since. He’s always been at his best using speed and quickness off the snap and that’s one of the traits NFL scouts like.

Trenton Thompson
Trenton Thompson (AP Images)

Recruiting: Georgia was the first offer for the former five-star prospect and he picked the Bulldogs over Alabama and Auburn in the summer before his senior season. Georgia was always considered the favorite and he talked about possibly committing there on multiple occasions.

Stats: Tied for third on the team with 17 tackles, Thompson also has three stops for loss. Georgia’s defense is only allowing 9.2 points per outing.

Farrell’s take: At one point our No. 1 player overall in his class, Thompson has shown flashes of greatness for the Bulldogs but needs to show more consistency. He has shown that ability to shoot the gap, handle traffic inside and push the pocket to slow down the running game and put the quarterback under duress. Thompson was always double and triple teamed in high school and wore down a few times which led to criticism, but we always liked his motor and upside and still do.